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Under Construction

Making Homeland Security at the Local Level

Under Construction

Making Homeland Security at the Local Level

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, security became the paramount concern of virtually everyone involved in governing the United States. While the public’s most enduring memories of that time involved the actions of the Bush administration or Congress, the day-to-day reality of homeland security was worked out at the local level. Kerry B. Fosher, having begun an anthropological study of counterterrorism in Boston a few months prior to the attacks, thus found herself in a unique position to observe the formation of an immensely important area of government practice.
Under Construction goes behind the headlines and beyond official policy to describe the human activities, emotions, relationships, and decisions that shaped the way most Americans experienced homeland security. Fosher’s two years of fieldwork focused on how responders and planners actually worked, illuminating the unofficial strategies that allowed them to resolve conflicts and get things done in the absence of a functioning bureaucracy. Given her unprecedented access, Fosher’s account is an exceptional opportunity to see how seemingly monolithic institutions are constructed, maintained, and potentially transformed by a community of people.

288 pages | 6 halftones, 3 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2008

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society

Political Science: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, and International Relations


“Kerry Fosher’s conscientious ethnography of homeland security is noteworthy in two regards. First, its focus on practice opens up homeland security as a complex field of study, challenging armchair analyses that discern national security developments strictly from political speeches and government reports. Second, it provides rich fodder for professional ethics discussions among anthropologists rightly wary of interpreting national defense in its own terms.”

Monica Schoch-Spana, University of Pittsburgh

Under Construction is extraordinarily well written, original, timely, and its subject matter is extremely important. Fosher’s demonstration of the usefulness of an ethnographic approach to the topic is truly valuable—practitioners, planners, and policy-makers especially need to read this book.”

Anna Simons, Naval Postgraduate School

"Fosher offers an academic expose of the practical dimensions of doing homeland security. [...] An ethnographic description... that describes her own encounters with those involved in homeland security in the Boston area."


Table of Contents



Part 1. Background and Context

1 Positions

2 Context: Policy and Geography

3 Muddling Through: Methods, Ethics, and Writing

4 Finding the Community

Part 2. What Is Homeland Security Practice?

5 A Brief Introduction to Homeland Security Work

6 Daily Tasks

7 Conceptualizing Security

8 Maintaining Flexibility: How the Work Gets Done

Part 3: Conclusion

9 Opportunities and Problems: Final Comments


Appendix: Sample Organizations in the Boston Area’s

Homeland Security Policy Community


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